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dpa/GNA – Kyrgyzstan goes to the polls to choose a new president on Sunday, three months after unrest forced the previous incumbent to resign.

More than 3.5 million voters are eligible to take part in the election in the Central Asian republic, the region’s sole democracy. Seventeen candidates are standing.

Expected to perform well in the vote is acting president Sadyr Zhaparov, who took the reins of power in the wake of post-election chaos followed a disputed parliamentary vote on October 4.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which independently monitored that vote, reported irregularities, including “credible allegations of vote-buying.”

Thousands of protesters then took to the streets in Bishkek, a city of about 100,000 people, after the official election results were revealed to show broad approval for pro-government parties, with the front-runner loyal to then-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

Protesters stormed the parliament building, presidential offices and a prison facility, freeing Zhaparov, a former opposition leader, who was later appointed prime minister and then acting president, after Jeenbekov resigned in an effort to end the protests.

Zhaparov’s closest challenger is the head of the Butun party, Adakhan Madumarov, who is far behind in the polls. The winner will be the candidate who receives an absolute majority of the vote.

Voters will also take part in a referendum on constitutional reform to decide whether to reintroduce the presidential system abolished more than 10 years ago.

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic bordering China, with close ties to Russia, has undergone two revolutions in the past 15 years, in 2005 and 2010.

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